Step-by-Step Suggestions and Help for
Middle School Students and Parents


1. Get an idea for your project
Find an area that interests you. You might want to look at a list of science fair categories to help decide. Talk over ideas with your family, teacher or friends. Use TV commercials, magazines, newspapers, or books to get more ideas. Think about problems around the house that you would like to solve. You can even test household items.

2. Start a Daily Log
Use a separate notebook or booklet as your Daily Log and divide it into two sections: "Daily Work" and "Data."

3. Do a search for background information
Every scientist spends time getting background information. Use the library; write or call experts; write to companies and organizations; use the internet on your computer. Start keeping a bibliography with complete information on every source you used and tried to get. Good research will help you become an expert on your topic. As an expert, you will be able to make a better hypothesis, plan better testing, and draw better conclusions. You'll also impress others with your knowledge when you share the results of your project with them.

4. State the problem in a question form
This part (often used as a title) asks what you are trying to find or show in your investigation. Make sure your problem is one that can be solved by testing. It must involve more than a demonstration or a collection.

5. State your hypothesis
The hypothesis is an educated guess or a prediction of what you think will happen during your experimentation. Use background information to help you prepare this prediction and to explain it. The results of the test you do later do not have to support the hypothesis in order for the experiment to be a success.

6. Design the experiment
Determine the procedure that you will follow to test your hypothesis and record it in your Daily Log. The procedure should explain the steps to be followed in order to find the answer to your question or problem. Think about necessary safety precautions that will be taken. Make a complete list in your Daily Log of all the materials you will need.

A good procedure is very detailed - like a good recipe. This makes it easy for other scientists to duplicate your experiment so they can verify your results.

7. Conduct the experiment
Follow your procedure carefully to ensure fair, scientific testing. While testing, record in your Daily Log all data by accurately observing, measuring, describing, couting or photographing. Work safely. If necessary, make changes in your procedure and document them in your Daily Log.

8. Repeat the procedure
The results will be more convincing and valid if you repeat the experiment as many times as possible. For example, an experiment that uses ten plants will give more valid results than one that tested only one or two plants. Testing and measuring the distance a car rolled down a ramp ten times would be more valid than testing it only one time.

9. Analyze the data (Results)
Look at the measurements you recorded in your Daily Log closely. Decide what the results mean. Try to find explanations for your observations. If possible, examine your results mathematically (percentages, mean, median, range, mode). Construct graphs or tables that will go on your backboard to show the results more clearly. The data will help you decide whether your hypothesis is supported or should be rejected.

10. Make conclusions
Conclusions are statements telling what you found out or learned during your investigation. This is a very important part of your project since you probably learned a lot. They are based on the results of your experiment and your hypothesis. Explain how the data you collected supports your hypothesis. If the data doesn't support your hypothesis, explain why you reject your hypothesis. Explain what further testing might be done to better answer your original question. Tell how people might apply your findings to every day life. Can you explain any unusual findings from your testing?

11. Communicate your results in a summary
Scientists share their findings with other scientists. Write a short (one page) five-paragraph summary that explains the most important parts of your project. An easy format to use is to write one paragraph that summarizes each of the following:

Practice an oral presentation also. Be an expert on all parts of your project so you'll be prepared to answer an interviewer's or classmate's questions.

12. Construct a display that explains your project

Dimensions - Exhibits will be confined to a table space and must not exceed 2 feet from side to side, 3 feet high, and 15 inches from front to back. Exhibits should be durably constructed and self supported. 

Science Folders - all students must display two folders in front of the backboard. The first, the science folder, should include the Daily Log, summary, and list of materials. The following items may also be included in the science folder: research, letters written to obtain information, newspaper articles related to the topic, surveys, graphs, charts, pictures, and definitions of vocabulary words. The second folder should include a report with the bibliography.

Required Parts of the Project and Display


What the students wants to find out, written in question form. The question must be one that can be answered by doing an experiment or investigation.


A statement predicting what might happen as a result of doing the investigation or experiment


Steps the student followed to complete the project.


Explanation of what the data means...graphs, charts, hypothesis.


An answer to the original question that relates to the hypothesis.


A list of materials used to complete the experiment or investigation. The list of materials may be put on the display board or in the science folder.


Factual information. Measurement and/or observations used to confirm the hypothesis. Data may be displayed as pictures, diagrams, graphs, surveys, written explanation, etc.

Daily log

A journal recording of the steps and procedures of the experiment or investigation.


A written explanation of the project. Include the title of the project, why the topic was chosen, the results (what happened), how the results compared to the hypothesis, and what was learned.


A list of sources of information.

Tips for Exhibitors

  • Plan carefully 
  • Spell correctly 
  • Paint or cover display board (if made from wood) 
  • Be neat and thorough 
  • Title appropriately 
  • Label neatly 
  • Use ink or markers 
  • Print or type all words placed on display board 
  • Use pleasing colors 
  • If the project includes photographs of the students, dots or pieces of paper must be placed over the face of the student. 
  • Do not put student's name on the project. The name should be found on the application attached to the back of your project. 

13. Be ready to answer questions that judges often ask
Below is a sample of questions that judges often ask students during judging interviews. It is a good idea to practice answering the following questions before meeting the judges: